The Culture Opportunity Every Leader Should Take

A good friend of mine recently took a new job with a different organization. It was a bigger role for much less money.

Why would he do that? What was so attractive about this new position that would have him walk away from a handsome compensation package from his former employer?

His response? “In my new job as a leader in this company, my primary responsibility is to focus on culture.”

I responded to him by saying, “That is the primary responsibility of every leader!”

The problem is that most of them don’t know it.

If we dive into the forensic failures of leaders past, we can see the trail that often leads newly christened leaders into the land of defeat – soul crushing their way to achieving results.

A tale that is unfortunate and not uncommon.

There are several factors, but one of them is explained best through the old adage, “Practice makes…?” I know you want to say ‘Perfect’, right?

The answer is, practice makes habits. The more you do something, the more your brain seeks to make it your default system, a habit.

As a former national team athlete, I’m a practiced, performance-driven individual. I love to focus on the results, KPI’s and fixing the things that aren’t working. It has become a habit. This habit has served me well as I transitioned into a leadership position and had to learn to contain so that others could develop.

It’s human nature to focus on the habits we know, what we are most comfortable with. For most high-performing individual contributors, it is through delivering great results year after year – this becomes your default operating system. When it’s time to step into a different role, as a new leader, you need a different orientation, one to deliver results through other people, which is a completely different ball game – an arms length approach that can be so foreign that you don’t know where to start.

So where should you start?

Start by focusing on the culture.

Great leaders understand their primary responsibility is to create the conditions for success to emerge. Hold fervently to the cultural standards and course correct, provide feedback based on how you want to do business and make secondary the traditional KPI’s that are short-sighted and pander more to your vanity than long term sustainability.

When you put culture first:

  • The people will stay longer
  • They will be more engaged
  • They will produce better results
  • They will want you to hire the best people and will often recruit for you
  • You will produce a better leadership pipeline

You will develop a powerful community of people, driving your business forward, instead of relying on mercenaries waiting for their next paycheck

If you are a leader in your business, take the opportunity to make culture your main priority and see for yourself what happens.